Mothers and their children will always be my favorite thing to photograph. No fancy outfits, locations or poses. Just a mom being a mom. Think of the favorite images you have of your mother, and I guarantee they aren’t your favorite because of what she’s wearing or if she had her makeup done. You love them because she is beaming from ear to ear, or wearing that soft sweater you used to cuddle up in, or cradling you in her arms. You love the photos because you love the person in them. Remember that if you’re having pictures taken this fall. Your kids just want you, their mom. You are beautiful just as you are.
Britt and I met up last minute at 10am in 40 degree weather and right before they left Sidney had covered himself in paint. Kids have a funny way of doing that. Your real life deserves to be photographed too.
The birth story of Kit Charles Riley as told by his fearless momma.
Don’t miss the birth film at the end of the post!
When people say that no two births are the same, they are telling the truth. It make sense. Every child is unique and deserves their own spectacular grand entrance. My two babies were born 13 years apart and both their pregnancies and birth stories are polar opposite. My daughter, Sylvie Lynne, was monitored throughout my pregnancy for measuring small and a consistently declining growth rate. At 37 weeks, we induced because the doctor thought she could grow better on the outside than she was growing on the inside. After 28 hours of labor, 3.5 hours of pushing and an episiotomy, my tiny little chiclet was born. When we brought her home she weighed less than 5 pounds.
On the other side of the spectrum, my second baby, Kit Charles, was monitored via ultrasound throughout my pregnancy for measuring large. At 39 weeks and 5 days, we decided to induce in order to get him out before he added too much bulk. The hope was to avoid a c-section.
I was definitely nervous about his size, but my stomach was measuring right on target, even on the small side. So I was really counting on the ultrasound measurements being wrong. The doctor told me they could be off up to a pound either way. I was also trying to trust my body. This may sound naive, but I checked into the hospital on induction day with the belief that my body wouldn’t make a baby that I couldn’t push out. I had already achieved one vaginal birth and was expecting this one to be difficult, but ultimately successful.
After I was admitted at 8 am, the nurses checked my cervix and I was already dilated to 4 cm and 80% effaced. A great starting point. I had been having contractions daily for weeks, so it didn’t take long for the pitocin to get me to a regular rhythm. As we prepared to do the epidural, I reiterated again to my nurses and the anesthesiologist that my body had not reacted well in the past. I told them that 13 years ago, after 24 hours of laboring with Sylvie, I opted for an epidural and my blood pressure promptly bottomed out. The current medical team bolstered my body with extra fluid to help prevent the same thing from happening again, but no luck. As soon as they placed the epidural, my blood pressure plummeted. It took 50 ccs of epinephrine to get my heart stabilized. The epidural was kept to a very low dosage so I still had full range of movement.
By 2:30pm my cervix was dilated to 7 cm but the baby was still too high, at -2 station and we needed him to move down to 0 station to engage in the birth canal. The nurses brought in an inflatable peanut shaped ball and instructed me to lay on my side with the peanut ball between my knees. The goal was to open my hips and make room in my pelvis for the baby to move down. The nurses said they would come check on me every half an hour and hopefully in an hour and a half or two we would be ready to push.
As soon as the nurses left the room, I felt immense pressure and called them right back in. They checked and within two minutes he had dropped down into the birth canal and I was fully dilated and ready to push. We were all surprised. I laughed, thinking it was a good thing I hadn’t spread my legs earlier if that’s all it took! The nurses called the doctor and started moving all of the delivery equipment into the room to begin pushing.
At this point, I noticed the nurses watching the heart rate monitor closely. But they didn’t seem too concerned. When Dr. Linn arrived, she had me put on an oxygen mask to see if we could help babies heart rate move back up to the baseline. It had been steadily declining since he engaged in my birth canal. Dr. Linn directed me to move into various positions to try and relieve some of the pressure on the baby. It was when i was on my hands and knees with my head down and bottom half in the air, oxygen mask pumping and everyone’s eyes glued to the monitor that the tears started coming. I could tell something was seriously wrong.
After a few more minutes with no positive change, my no-nonsense doc looked me straight in the eyes and said, “We are going to have to get your baby out now and I don’t have time to talk you through everything that is going to happen. You are just going to have to trust me, ok?” I felt like a helpless child... my chin quivering and tears leaking steadily as I tried to take calming deep breaths of oxygen and silently searched for faith and strength in the eyes of my family.
Within seconds, I felt like I was in an episode of ER. A flurry of fast-moving nurses surrounded me, moving like a well-oiled machine as they prepared me to move to the operating room. I breathed deeply into the oxygen mask as my parents and Sylvie came to my bedside and prayed with me. Jason was given a surgical suit and told to wait until they came back to get him as I was wheeled out of the room and down the hall. It all happened so fast.
I'd like to say I didn't have time to be scared, but that's not true. It was the most terrifying moment of my life. I was scared for my baby. I could hear Dr. Linn calling for NICU to come immediately to the operating room for resuscitation, if necessary. My mama's heart was pounding with fear, imagining my boy arriving gray and lifeless. I couldn't feel him moving inside me. I was also irrationally scared of the surgery itself, of how my body would react to more anesthesia. I was afraid the epidural wouldn't work fast enough and I wouldn't be numb in time. I also hated the idea of a scar and all the painful healing that comes with it. This was what I had been trying to avoid all along and now it was happening and I wasn't emotionally or mentally prepared at all.
The OR was an experience I'll never forget. The lights were so bright overhead and my completely naked body felt so vulnerable as I was laid out on the table. I stared straight up into those lights and prayed for us both, trying not to spend mental energy on what the doctor meant, when she ordered the nurses to "splash and dash."
By the time Jason came bursting through those doors, I was already cut open. He walked into blood and iodine on the floor and my organs in full view and he didn't flinch. He held my hand hard and stared into my eyes with all the love and strength he could give me. As much as I needed that, I also wanted one of us to watch the birth. "Don't miss it," I whispered. He turned his face beyond the curtain and I kept my eyes glued on him. I may not have seen Kit's entrance into the world but I got to see Jason's entrance into fatherhood. His awe and excitement was immediately healing to my heart.
If you saw me before I went into labor, you would not have expected me to have a large baby. My stomach was compact and even measuring a tad small, even though the baby measured large. That kid was so jam-packed into every corner of my abdomen, my last few weeks of pregnancy were miserable. Needless to say, Dr. Linn used all her strength as she braced her elbow on the table for leverage and pulled out our 9 lbs. 3 oz. , 22 inch screaming mad and perfectly healthy baby boy. At 3:20 pm, I heard that glorious cry and Jason's subsequent exclamation, "This is awesome!" and I laughed with true joy and relief... All the nurses kept asking where I was hiding that much baby. I could only smile and laugh and cry in response.
My friend and photographer, Katie, wasn't allowed into the operating room due to the urgent nature of the surgery. But as soon as Dr. Linn delivered Kit, she ran back and grabbed Katie's camera and snapped a few photos in the minutes after his birth. Birth photography is not in her job description, but this woman went above and beyond for us. I am forever thankful for her thoughtfulness.
As I watched the NICU nurses check out Kit, I felt my consciousness slipping. Then came another 50 cc of epinephrine for my heart and a dose of methergine to control the postpartum hemorrhaging I didn't know was happening. The shock to my system combined with blood loss and meds caused my body temperature to drop to hypothermic levels. I was allowed to hold and nurse Kit while cocooned in a "bear hugger" blanket, which equates to an inflatable sleeping bag with warm air being constantly blown through it. It took an hour in the bear hugger to raise my body temp back to safe levels and our family was finally allowed to come meet our newest member.
The next few hours with our family were so precious. Each introduction a moment of tears and awe at the perfect little child in my arms. I was riding high on emotions and pain medicine for those first 24 hours. When the pain medicine wore off the next day, I realized just how difficult the next few weeks of recovery would be. I couldn't do anything by myself. I couldn't sit, stand, walk, go to the bathroom, clean myself or pick up my baby alone. Jason never left my side. That man was a rock, constantly bringing me water, walking me to the bathroom in the middle of the night and wiping blood from my body, helping me on and off the toilet, in and out of bed, changing my clothes, advocating for stronger pain medicine and perfecting his diaper-changing skills. Those first nights in the hospital, I had a glimpse of what we meant when we vowed, "In sickness and in health," and I loved him more than I ever have.
A few days later, we all came home and began finding our new normal as a family of four. Kit Charles Riley is 4 months old today and I am just now finishing his birth story. Truthfully, it took me this long to process and document it because this wasn't the story I thought I'd be telling. But it is ours; beautiful in its realness and the strength we found in each other. And now we get to love our happy, healthy baby and that's what matters in the end. Welcome to the family, boy.
We're glad you made it.
Emily Kelly is the talented woman behind Find Your Yoga, an online wellness community focusing on mindfulness, yoga and self-development. We meet twice a month to film videos for her online courses and to grab photos for her social media platforms!
I started working with Nicole Pence back in December on a brand new website, photography and videos for her blog! We have had such a great time filming and photographing her crazy life as a mom of 3 boys, media company owner and social strategist.
Saturday morning came with such excitement as myself, John, my mom (Nonnie), Chase, and Cam made our way to the hospital at 5am–laughing and cracking jokes as to the noises I would be making (the kids predicted a moaning cow). We were finally going to meet this baby boy we’ve been so patiently waiting for!!! So remember that aforementioned PLAN and newborn story I spoke of? Well there were bets as to what time of day he would arrive and how it would be such a BREEZE based on how easily I labored the girls (granted I had assistance with an epidural). “He’ll be here before lunch!” “This is your third baby, your body knows what to do!” “He’ll be 7 pounds!” “You’ll go SO QUICKLY!” Insert Hysterical Laughter GIF. Other notable quotes from the day were courtesy of the bunnies. Cam asked no less than ten times when my water would break. Followed by, “Is Katie going to take pictures of your vagina?” And, “When will you start screaming?” Chase’s quote of the day was, “Do you think he’ll be here by noon so I can take a nap?” #tweenlife They were so amazing….I had such a sense of comfort having them in the room as I was reminded of their birthdays and it calmed me immensely.
My mind was totally right, ready, and prepared to fully embrace whatever the day had in store for us. The induction began around 8am and things were smooth sailing with slow but steady progression until around 6pm. This came as a bit of a surprise as the girls had both already been born by this time and I was ON MY FEET pretty much all day in an effort to assist Pip’s journey. I swayed, I walked, I figure 8’ed, I medicine balled…you name it…I was doing it. My doctor, who is also John’s colleague, was not only phenomenal but so respectful of my desire to deliver this baby as naturally as possible. John and I gave them the green light to crank up the pitocin drip and when they did…Y O W Z A. I remember with the girls I made it until about 7cm and then it was “Check Please!” This was different though…this was so dang intense and fast. And this is where I relied on my crew to get me through what would be the most extreme part of our journey. I legit went from 6-10 cm in 30 mins. So needless to say he was coming with some extreme intensity!! John and my mom were so wonderful (their faces in the video melt me)–tending to me just as your partners in crime should–there is NO way I could have done this without them–John’s presence was so calming and supportive and his excitement was just beyond precious. The girls were still in the room at this point although when the doc examined me, Chaser exclaimed, “I’m outta here!”….Chaser and blood are No Bueno. And Roo…well there’s a funny story behind her involvement with the delivery (see below image–spoiler alert: She slept through the entire show). Tamrha, my doula, was worth her weight in 14k GOLD…for realz. I think the swiftness of the pain coming on so dang fast took me by surprise and it was Tamrha who constantly reassured me that this was Pip’s way of letting me know he was almost here. Feeling like you’re gonna mess your pants? Pip’s almost here! Feeling like you want to throw in the towel? He’s on his way! Feeling like you don’t have much more to give? You’re so close to the finish line! She was incredible—so comforting, reassuring, and just downright awesome!
I knew his arrival was right around the corner based on the above as well as the hospital team getting the layette ready and my doctor being all scrubbed up. She told John how to hold my leg…and explained how it was going to all shake out. Basically…he was here and I shouldn’t have to push for that long. And she was right, although son of a biscuit that ain’t child’s play….I remember the whole crew telling me to open my eyes so I could see his head and it was hands down one of the most incredible moments of my life. I remember that so vividly. I remember John’s sweet eyes and smile telling me he could see him and how perfect he was. I remember my doctor holding my hand and telling me to give one more good push and he’d be here. I remember my mom putting a cold cloth on my head and telling me she loved me. I remember my doula reassuring me my pushes were goodins. I remember reaching my hand behind my head to find Katie’s…..and I squeezed the bejesus out of it. I remember the complete euphoria once he was placed on my chest. I remember feeling more full in this precious moment looking at my husband hold our baby boy as our two beautiful daughters met their brother for the first time. I remember pride that I had done what I set out to do. I remember such a deep profound love. I remember you, Calvin, my sweet baby boy….the love we have for you is immeasurable. You’ve completed our world in ways I never thought possible.
To my dear friend and amazing photographer, Katie, what a gift you have given us with these beautiful images and video. You’re a true talent and I cannot begin to thank you enough for these amazing pictures. To the hospital staff at Hendricks, y’all were beyond superb from start to finish—what an amazing team of women!! To my family…my cup runneth over–the love I have for you all runs so very deep. Chaser, Roo, Nonnie, Big John, and Julie…thank you for being by our sides and we simply couldn’t love you more–Chaser and Roo–I’m so so proud of you both–this baby boy is beyond lucky to have you two leading the sibling way! To my doula, Tamrha–what a gift you have. You were such a source of strength and support and my family is forever grateful to you! To my seersucker readers, you all–thank you!!! The well wishes, the support, the advice–it’s all appreciated more than I can properly express. And last but most definitely not least, to my husband, if I could only freeze time on the moment you first saw our son—it is a memory that will forever be engrained in my mind. I will always remember the look of joy in your eyes–it completely melts me and brings me to tears every time I picture it. I will never forget what you said to me right after Calvin was born, “That was the most beautiful moment I have ever witnessed and I’m so proud of you.” You are my rock, my soulmate, and my best friend, John. Thank you for this incredible life.
I met Erin during sorority rush in the fall of 2011, and I knew instantly that we would be friends for life. She is such a warm and caring person, and the moment she introduced me to Trevor I knew I would be attending their wedding one day! Sweethearts since high school, Trevor and Erin pledged their lifetime commitment to each other in front of family and friends, and I don't know if anyone other than Becca and I were crying because I was literally shooting through my tears.
We began the day hanging out at Vintage Villas, fawning over all of Erin's special wedding details while the bridal party was pampered to the max.
Erin's engagement ring and earrings are family heirlooms, and her family made her the most beautiful wedding dress scrapbook full of cards and well wishes. Trevor's stepdad designed and printed the invitations, and all of the menus and save the dates! That lavender comes into play a bit later on in the day...
We alternated between laughing and crying all day! Becca up there was THE WORST. I could barely look at her, because chances were she would be crying and cause me to lose my cool. :) Fun fact, Erin introduced me to Becca in college and I have since photographed her proposal, engagement photos, wedding, and newborn photos of baby Hudson! It was so great to catch up with all of my Phi Mu sisters and college friends during the long weekend!
If I can make one recommendation to anyone planning a wedding, it's to choose a bridal party full of happy and helpful friends and family! You will spend the majority of your day with your bridal party, and since timelines can get stressful at times, it's important for everyone to go with the flow! :) Erin and Trevor's bridal party was full of my friends from college so of course i'm partial, but this bunch was INSANELY fun and kept everyone laughing all day long!
Meet Harold. Erin + Trevor's ride or die. Hands down the most expressive dog i've ever met! All you have to do is scratch his head, say "Daft Punk" and "Head tilt" and he's yours. Treats and ice cubes help, too. :) He went off on a little solo excursion just moments before the first look, so Trev had to run back inside and scramble to find him! Not the first time, and probably not the last. ;)
Not to be outdone by his beautiful bride's vintage details, Trevor chose a handmade feather bowtie by Brackish to complete his look. And a Lonestar. Always a Lonestar. :)
I've said it once and i'll say it again a thousand times over. The moment a mother sees her daughter transform into a bride is hands down, one of my top 5 favorite moments on a wedding day. Erin and her momma are especially close, which made the moment that much sweeter.
Slay girl, slay. This is the face of a woman who has been waiting 8 years to marry her man!
Trevor's first look reaction was one of my favorites this year! He couldn't stop smiling and staring at his girl. :) And this was right about the time the clouds started to roll in...since I was shooting this wedding alone, I knew we had to switch into high gear to finish up portraits before the thunderstorms came! Opening up Dark Sky and seeing 100% chance of severe thunderstorms starting any minute is not exactly the most comforting feeling on a wedding day...it was also a scorching 95 degrees. So, yeah. :)
Once again, I will gush over how incredible this bridal party was. I put my bossy pants on and most likely hollered (I don't even remember I was so in the zone) at everyone to get themselves outside, and quick! :)
And then the sky opened up and the black clouds rolled in...right in time for family formals! Luckily Vintage Villas has some great overhangs!
The minute Erin and her mom stepped over the threshold, the tears were flowin'. There is something so magical about being surrounded by everyone you love while you pledge your life to your partner, and I get chills thinking about it during every ceremony I photograph!
Erin and Trevor chose a unity knot ceremony to express their love and values, with each color symbolizing something special. After they were married, guests showered them in fresh lavender and it was time to party!
Sweetwater Stems absolutely transformed the reception space into a tropical oasis! Erin sent me home with a few of the air plants, and one is as big as my head! :) From the succulents to the peonies, monstera leaves and fresh roadside peaches, Kelli absolutely nailed it!
After the first dance and parent dances, the floor was PACKED until the sparkler exit!
Natalie started us off with some killer dance moves...
Trevor and Erin's family threw them one hell of a celebration, and I was insanely honored to be a part of it. E + T, words can't describe how grateful I am to have you in my life. You make my days a little bit brighter, life a little bit fuller, and heart a little bit more kind. I wish you both all of the happiness this world has to offer, and more. LIOB.
The day after the wedding, we all headed out on a party barge on Lake Travis and I left my cameras at home. :) These two know how to party, i'll give 'em that! A few days after their wedding, I roped E +T into taking their wedding clothes for one more spin seeing as I didn't get as many portraits as i'd like to on their wedding day because of the rain! We visited some of their fave spots in Austin, and ended with fancy drinks at The Driskill downtown.
Until next time. :)
Venue: Vintage Villas
Photography: Katie Destry
Cake: Sophisticakes Austin
Dress: Lenora by Watters, The White Magnolia
Bridesmaids: Alfred Angelo
Groom & Groomsmes: Vera Wang, Mens Wearhouse
Hair & Makeup: Katy Reddell
Florals: Sweetwater Stems
Ceremony Band: Paul Erdman
Reception Band: The Grooves
Seating Chart: Alex Middlebrook
Bulb Lights: Intelligent Lighting Design
Sparklers: Superior Celebration
Wedding Favors: Journeyman Distillery & Grandstand Glassware and Apparel
Jewelry: Family Heirlooms
Invitations: Ken Holewczynski
Grace and Christian were married in a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony surrounded by their loved ones on May 6th, 2017 in Sharpsville, IN at the Kelley Historical Farm. Grace and I met during our second week at Purdue, when we both pledged Phi Mu and became fast friends! She left Purdue soon after I did to work on a dude ranch (OMG amazing!) in Colorado, where she then met her future husband! One of my favorite things about this universe of ours is how it works in mysterious ways, guiding us along a path and steering us towards the people we need in our life the most. After spending all of five minutes with Christian on their wedding day, it was so evident to me that Grace and Christian are an amazing match and will do great things in their new life together.
Christian is fortunate enough to have three AMAZING sisters, and they made up Grace's bridal party along with her own sister, Abby and best friend from Colorado!
One of my absolute favorite moments on a wedding day is when a father sees his daughter as a bride for the very first time. Cue the tears!
Grace and Christian opted for a moment together before their ceremony to read letters and calm their nerves, while saving their first look moment for when she walked down the aisle.
This was hands down the windiest wedding I have EVER photographed in my 7 years of wedding experience, so we opted for some indoor portraits of Grace before the ceremony.
And she SLAYEDDDDD.
See what I mean by the windiest wedding ever?! Wind speeds were topping 20mph as they lined up to walk down the aisle!
And just like that, they're HUSBAND + WIFE!! One of my favorite things to have couples do immediately following their ceremony is to call each other husband and wife! They take a moment to let it sink in, and i'm able to capture some great candid portraits!
Not going to lie, posed family formals used to be my least favorite part of a wedding day...but as i've grown older and realized how important it is to have images with all of your loved ones, they are now one of my absolute favorite moments of the day!
Talk about one of my favorite bridal parties ever! Everyone was so great while taking photos outside in the wind, cracking jokes to make people laugh and keeping the mood light and fun! Picking a great bridal party who will roll with the punches on a wedding day is an absolute must in my book!
While we were taking photos outside, the barn space was flipped so the party could begin!
After a week long honeymoon in Kaua'i, Grace and Christian moved north to Mackinac Island to run a quaint little B&B and begin their married life together! Thank you two so incredibly much for your hospitality and warmth on your wedding day, and allowing Zoe and I to come along for the ride! Can't wait to visit you at your new digs! Much love to you both. <3
Photography Assistant: Zoe Mattler
Venue: Kelley Agricultural Farm
Catering: Rozzi's Catering
Cake: Let Them Eat Cake
Hair and Makeup: Audra Courtney
Bride's Dress: LUXEredux Bridal Indianapolis
Bride's Shoes: DSW
Groom: Men's Warehouse
Flowers: Graceful Hands Floral Design
I spent the afternoon with Rana, Lulu and Apple Pie the pup at their 1800s estate in the middle of nowhere, Indiana. We ate wild violets, rejoiced over super special top secret news, picked lilacs, frolicked through the fields and laughed so incredibly much. Such a special place in my heart for this little family I love so much. Portra400 dev/scan TheFINDLab
One. Two. Three. Four.
Luca. Rhys. Colby. Sidney.
All so different, yet alike in so many ways.
Britt & Alex's legacy.
Here is a glimpse into their life together, as a family of six.